21 December 2008
I've Loved You So Long focuses on the story of Juliette Fontaine coming from prison to live with her sister, who was a young adolescent when she was incarcerated. The tensions of living with an extended family are exacerbated by Juliette's personality, which it is accepted is altered by her time in gaol. Philippe Claudel's story is beautifully structured to release just as much information as is necessary to keep you interested, while retaining just enough mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat.
I have never seen a French film that I haven't liked, but I have also never seen a French film of this calibre. It is an outstanding piece of storytelling, full of pathos and charm.
21 November 2008
17 November 2008
17 October 2008
11 October 2008
04 October 2008
29 August 2008
We pay, of course, because we have high expectations of Opera Australia; and the extravagant sets and brilliant costumes combined with the magnificent performance by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra dazzle us into believing that we've had the best kind of theatre experience money can buy. And this is precisely the point of George Bernard Shaw's original story.
A poor flower seller, often impugned as a Mayfair Lady, is taken in by an arrogant academic who wants to prove that he can pass her off as a duchess; and having done so, he finds himself in love with her. Her innate worth, which stood in question, is proven by the fact that she is loved best by the arrogant academic who knows her best.
Reg Livermore's delivery of Henry Higgins's one-liners was fine. Well-timed, and responsive to the audience, the performance bore all the hallmarks of a seasoned performer. It did lack, however, a fundamental understanding of the character. It was obvious that this was not Livermore's ill, as the same could be said for Dolittle, Pickering, and perhaps, even Eliza. It would seem that neither producer nor director had bothered to scrape behind the surface of this deep, dark comedy. Opera Australia's My Fair Lady was a superficial and entirely inadequate treatment of one of the most profound dramatic works to grace the Western Stage since Shakespeare's Hamlet.
But who could blame Opera Australia? A high-brow institution without audiences seeking to generate cashflow by staging a popular musical. This was not an artistic endeavour so much as it was an exercise in marketing. And a very successful one. Every performance in Canberra was sold out, despite the exhorbitant ticket prices and the presence of a much more intelligent show literally next door in the Courtyard Studio.
Opera Australia have taken a shabby production, neglecting its more fundamental value, dressed it up in a spectacular fashion, and have charged us a fortune to see it. Just like Henry Higgins, they have taken something they assume to be worthless, they have added a superficial gloss, and have found it to be of value. And just like Higgins, they still misunderstand its innate worth. The irony is delicious. And devastating.
I am hoping for more from Canberra Repertory's production of Pygmalion later this year. They have a much better chance of making their point, mainly because they're not using a bastardised version of Shaw's story.
There is also hope in the upcoming new film of My Fair Lady (scheduled for release in 2010), which is being penned by the very intelligent Emma Thomson and is intended to pay more respect to Shaw's intentions.
22 August 2008
To be perfectly honest, I thought Free Rain’s production of The Three Sisters to be the most profoundly astute and engaging interpretation of a thoroughly useless play I have ever encountered (and I have encountered many useless plays). Each character was carefully constructed, and portrayed brilliantly by a cast that has clearly engaged with Chekhov’s text on an intimate level.
Don’t take my description of Chekhov’s play as useless to be a negative thing. The play triggered thought, and because nothing seemed to happen, there was time to drift through thought without missing anything particularly important. Nothing was particularly important. At least, not to the mind of a cynical gen-xer like myself. But it would be nice if there were more opportunities to just sit and think.
This play is worth seeing twice, and I’m going back tomorrow. I’m hoping to be able to drift through those sections of the play that I didn’t drift through last time, and vice-versa.
Not the kind of play I would want to see every time I go to the theatre, but this was an opportunity not to be missed, and Free Rain should be commended on a splendid and invariably worthwhile production of something completely useless.
12 August 2008
Canberra Dramatics are a local theatre group which is committed to the development of new plays by playwrights from the city of Canberra and the surrounding region.
Their newest production, which is currently running at The Street Theatre until next Saturday 16th August is Mrs. Holt…written by Canberra playwright Trevar Alan Chilver.
I went along to the opening night of Mrs. Holt last Thursday night and discovered a thoughtful, entertaining and engaging play - not so much about aging - which I might have expected given the setting is in a nursing home ward - but more about changing attitudes and expectations between the generations.
I particularly liked the performance given by Gay Evans as an irascible, old patient called – intrigueingly – Zara Holt …who is the subject of the play.
I have not seen Gay perform before, but she is obviously an experienced actress – who has the ability to wring every ounce of comedy – and pathos – from her role to invest it with depth and interest.
Pete Ricardo, as the male nurse Jack Harris, also impressed with a well judged performance…the other actors in the cast Sarah Daphne, Sarah Ritchie and Cerri Davis.
Staged in a simple – effective and appropriate setting, this is probably the best play I have seen so far from Canberra Dramatics.and although it would benefit from eliminating some of the long black-outs between scenes which allow the pace to drop seriously... if you are at all interested in local playwrighting it is well worth your time to get along and see it.
Mrs. Holt runs at the Street Theatre until next Saturday 16th August. You can find out details of performances and performance times by ringing the Street Theatre or visiting their website.
31 July 2008
That's not to say it's not a worthy production; it is a great story, deftly performed by a cohesive and talented cast. It's just that the script didn't deserve the praise I heard. Much of the dialogue is awkward, and it doesn't help that the lead actor, Raoul Craemer, attempts to portray an elite Australian athlete without attempting an Australian accent. Don't get me wrong, there were some fine and genuinely funny moments, but this talented cast were let down by often unconvincing dialogue, and a director who allowed them to pronounce every 'T' in the script, which lent the already awkward dialogue a foreign and unfamiliar tone, which is not conducive to comedic impact.
Overall, an entertaining show, but this story had the potential to move me to both laughter and tears, and it didn't do either.
16 July 2008
Hancock is a good piece of cinema, but very light. It’s one of those films with a great premise that kind of falls down when the story should be getting interesting. You could see that spot at the end of the exposition and the conflict where the writers—Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan—suddenly realised that they don’t know where they’re going with this story. It’s good, but the best bits are in the trailer. Wait for the DVD.
I’d like to give them ten points for trying, but this is one of those unfortunate films that has fallen victim to the Hollywood movie machine. The idea was fresh and new, which is more than you can say for most American films this century, but the execution just didn’t cut it.
I just wish we had opted for Ten Empty instead. Oh well.
13 July 2008
I have long admired the work of Edward Albee. He’s pretty funny, for an American. And Moonlight’s production of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia was by far the most enjoyable thing I have seen on stage in Canberra since Rep did Noises Off last year. Wall to wall laughs were delivered by a talented cast under the direction of Bridget Balodis, who obviously understands timing and has an excellent command of the dramatic fluctuations of Albee’s work.
The play centres on the infidelity of Martin, and its impact on his small family. Jerry Hearn was assigned a difficult task in the role of Martin; to play a dramatic role in a comedy and do it well is an accomplishment in itself. Christa de Jager also toed the line very carefully between the intense drama of her role, and its comic one-liners. Sam Yeo, playing their son Billy, had a difficult time keeping a straight face as he began his hilarious journey, but his energy and timing, like that of the rest of the cast, was superb.
In all, a great night out. It was nice to be back in my old stomping ground of the ANU Drama Lab, but I was very disappointed with the enormous new seating: in order to avoid DVT I had to sit on an angle with my legs in the aisle, and crane my neck around to see the stage. The designers obviously didn’t consider the fact that many Australians are taller than a metre, or maybe they only expected children to be coming...